Did you know that the books you see on end caps and display tables at Barnes and Noble are sponsored by the publishers? That’s right; books featured are rarely due to the store employees choosing their favorite reads. The publishers pay a premium to get their top titles featured on the best real estate in the big stores. And now Amazon is working to follow a similar model via Amazon Marketing Services.
Amazon is constantly changing the way it does business, and lately I’ve noticed some significant updates to the real estate on book sales pages (as well as other product pages on Amazon). As an avid reader myself, I frequently rely on the section that says, “Customers who bought this item also bought…” This is where shoppers can browse similar types of books, and it’s where I often seek out new books to read.
This section has traditionally been shown just below the book description. However, for more and more products on Amazon, this section has been moved all the way down to the bottom of the page below the product reviews.
Why is Amazon playing with placement of recommended products?
It has become harder to optimize books to show up in traditional search results on Amazon, due to the amount of competition as well as sponsored titles gaining top placement. Just as Facebook made the shift to being a pay-to-play network, requiring paid advertising in order to get visibility for posts shared there, Amazon is clearly making a shift in the direction of pay-to-play for book marketing and visibility.
Using this model, Amazon earns money whether a browser buys a book or simply clicks on a sponsored title. It’s another revenue generating machine for the retail giant.
Sponsored books currently show up in the following places on Amazon:
- The top of search results. If you search for “diabetes cookbook” or “Vietnam war books,” the first couple of results are usually sponsored titles.
- In the middle of search results. Not only do sponsored books appear at the top of search results, sponsored titles are also sprinkled throughout all search results. A sponsored book can be shown as the 7th or 15th or 30th book in the list of search results.
- In the “Sponsored Products Related to this Item” section on individual book sales pages.
- On the right side of a book’s page under the “Add to Cart” buttons. (Product Display Ads)
- On the lock screen and top of Kindle reader devices. (Product Display Ads)
What does this mean for authors?
This shift toward pay-to-play advertising means that if you want your book to get more visibility on Amazon, you’re going to have to pay for that exposure.
Before you panic, there is some good news here.
Amazon ads are currently rather inexpensive, costing an average of between $.10 to $.30 per click. So, if you optimize your ads to target the right potential readers, and if your book’s sales page does a good job of converting visitors into buyers, then your small investment in product clicks could pay for itself big time.
The other good news is that advertising with Amazon is a rather low-risk proposition. You can set a daily budget of as little as $1 and then monitor the results.
Aiming for Return on Investment (ROI)
With any kind of advertising, the goal should be to generate a significant Return on Investment (ROI). Ideally for every dollar spent, you would earn back $2 or more in book sales.
For example, if you earn an average of $5 per book sold, and if you spend $4 in click ads to generate one sale, you’d earn an ROI of $1 and come out ahead. Of course the goal should be to earn a much higher return on investment, though any ROI is better than none at all!
For many nonfiction authors, it’s not as much about the revenue earned as it is about getting the book into the hands of readers. Perhaps this means that you wouldn’t mind spending $4 per sale because you’d still come out ahead and gain a new reader. You might even be willing to take a loss on ads because your book itself generates ROI from other business opportunities, such as speaking engagements or consulting clients.
I’ve heard from many authors utilizing Amazon ads. Some are raving about their results and generating lots of book sales thanks to their pay-per-click ads. These seem to work especially well for niche titles.
Others have reported that results are mediocre at best. I haven’t yet heard from anyone who found it to be a complete waste of time and money, though I’m sure there are some who haven’t been as successful with them.
As with any kind of marketing, you have to test to find out what works best for your unique product, or book in this case.
Amazon’s New “Secret” Targeted Marketing Campaigns
Recently a member of our NFAA community reported an interesting situation. He was contacted by Amazon and offered an opportunity for Amazon to create a targeted marketing campaign for his book—a nonfiction business memoir that was published two years ago.
Amazon offered the author a flat fee of $500 for a three-month agreement. In exchange, he had to agree to forego any royalties earned on Kindle sales during the time period. And by the way, $500 for three months was more than he was previously earning on the title, even while using Amazon pay-per-click ads. In the first month since this secret marketing campaign began, he’s watched his book climb up the charts on Kindle (see image).
Yet, his Kindle account shows the typical trickle of sales (a handful of copies per month), so he’s clearly not being shown how many sales are actually being generated by Amazon. But they’re obviously generating enough sales to improve his book’s ranking dramatically in the Kindle store.
I would expect to see a boost in his print book sales as a result of a Kindle book marketing campaign, but that hasn’t been the case. He generated less than 10 book sales in the month since the campaign began, which is about his average.
Since Amazon has shared little about how it’s operating the campaign, we can only assume that they are marketing the Kindle version of his book exclusively to Kindle-only readers.
By the way, while he is of course distributing the Kindle version of his book via Amazon’s KDP platform, the print version of his book is NOT a CreateSpace title (it’s published with IngramSpark). This is interesting to note since in this case, Amazon is not giving any preference to CreateSpace authors under this “secret” marketing campaign.
This author still isn’t sure why he was chosen for this experimental program, but he’s not complaining. It has already resulted in an unexpected business inquiry from someone who read his book recently.
What does this secret marketing campaign mean for you?
We can only speculate about what Amazon is up to, so here’s what I think may be on the horizon. I suspect that Amazon is using its own powers to target ads better than authors can do ourselves. If this is the case, and they’re able to generate significant sales results, then perhaps we will see a Done-for-You advertising program coming from Amazon in the near future.
Think about the possibilities here. If Amazon were to take over your book marketing for you in exchange for a flat fee or a lower royalty earned, would you sign on? I suspect many nonfiction authors would—especially if you’re using your book as a lead generating tool.
We will keep you posted on developments around this program as we learn more.
This is part of a 4-part blog series. Read the rest of the series here:
NEXT POST: Part 2 – How to Use Amazon Pay-Per-Click Campaigns (POPULAR TOPIC)
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Access the Amazon Report here.